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Monaghan get off to perfect start after their experienced bench proves decisive

Monaghan 1-17 Derry 0-14

Forward thinking: Shea Downey launches an attack
Forward thinking: Shea Downey launches an attack

By Steven Doherty

Monaghan took the spoils, and an early lead in Section A, at a brisk and breezy Inniskeen as they ran out six-point winners over a youthful Derry side.

The home side were made to work for their win, however, as they trailed 0-12 to 1-6 midway through the second half before the Oriels emptied their experienced bench to swing the contest their way.

Aaron Mulligan scored the only goal, and was man of the match with 1-4 to his name.

Derry's new manager Rory Gallagher will not have been too despondent despite the result. His first team sheet boasted as many as four debutants, with Declan Cassidy, Oisin McWilliams and Eoghan Duffy all starting.

And with the Slaughtneil and Eoghan Rua hurlers all missing, Shea Downey and Padraig McGrogan impressed in a new-look defensive spine. In attack, the more seasoned Ciaran McFaul and Ryan Bell were both outstanding in the opening 35 minutes while Emmett Bradley top-scored with five points.

With the words of their own new boss Seamus McEnaney ringing in their ears, Monaghan burst out of the traps to lead 1-2 to no score after just eight minutes. Conor McCarthy opened the scoring in the home side's first attack before the big right boot of Rory Beggan doubled their advantage soon after.

Mulligan provided their key score when he slipped the ball past Thomas Mallon in the ninth minute to hand his side that five-point advantage.

Shook into action, Derry staged an impressive fight-back and were the better side throughout the second quarter. Glen's McFaul, on the sore end of some early Monaghan attention, was their conductor in chief.

Early long balls were finding Bell with pinpoint precision and the Ballinderry man, with four first-half points, dragged the visitors back into contention.

Derry cut the deficit to 1-3 to 0-5 before Monaghan interrupted the Oak Leaf scoring spree through a Dessie Ward point.

But Gallagher's men had the wind firmly in their sails and finished the half much the stronger with Emmett Bradley, McFaul and Bell all raising white flags. The visitors led by three twice in the second half before Monaghan staged their own, ultimately match-winning, come-back.

Kieran Hughes and Jack McCarron were both introduced and nailed four points between them. With the last of the selection box run out of their legs, Derry began to fade on the heavy December pitch.

Monaghan hit 11 of the last 13 points to overturn the Derry lead and grind out a hard-fought victory.

Derry will look to earn their first points of the competition when they entertain neighbours Donegal at Celtic Park on Wednesday, January 8.

MONAGHAN: Rory Beggan (0-3, 1 '45', 2f), Ryan O'Toole, Conor Boyle, Colin Walshe, Padraic Keenan, Ryan Wylie, Micheál Bannigan (0-2), Barry McBennett (0-1), Darren Hughes, Aaron Mulligan (1-4, 2f), Andrew Woods, Philip Donnelly, Conor McCarthy (0-1), Gary Mohan, Dessie Ward (0-2).

Subs: Kieran Hughes (0-2) for G Mohan (HT), Dermot Malone for P Donnelly (42), Jack McCarron (0-2) for A Woods (49), Niall Kearns for D Hughes (56), Karl O'Connell for P Keenan (60).

Black card: D Malone (69).

Yellow cards: D Ward (3), M Bannigan (3), P Donnelly (7), D Hughes (12).

DERRY: Thomas Mallon, Conor McCluskey, Padraig McGrogan, Ryan Dougan, Ciaran McFaul (0-1), Shea Downey, Declan Cassidy, Padraig Cassidy, Emmett Bradley (0-5, 2f), Danny Tallon, Christopher Bradley (0-1), Oisin McWilliams, Ben McCarron (0-2, 1f), Eoghan Duffy, Ryan Bell (0-4, 1f).

Subs: Jack Doherty (0-1) for O McWilliams (HT), Niall Toner for D Tallon (49), Alex Doherty for B McCarron (55), Conor McAtamney for E Duffy (60).

Black card: C McFaul (70).

Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh).

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